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What Rishi Sunak Should Say and Do About the Strikes But Won't
“Our country is in the midst of a wave of strikes affecting almost every area of our lives, including health, transport, mail, education and the civil service. As Prime Minister, it is my job to grip this issue and today I am making a raft of announcement to do so.
We are where we are because as politicians we have not been honest with you, the British people. That ends today.
The truth is that we are in for one of the most difficult periods in our country’s history since the Second World War.
Britain is facing a daunting economic challenge: double-digit inflation, a spike in energy prices affecting every household and a national debt that is bigger than our economy. Over the next year, mortgage holders will have to deal with rapidly growing interest rates, while many young people have no chance of even getting on the property ladder and are locked in a crushing rent trap.
The situation we find ourselves in is the product of decades of economic and political mismanagement. Of course, I could stand here and explain that this predicament has its roots in the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession we inherited from Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, but my party has been in power for 12 years and we must take full responsibility for our own failures. This is not the time for party politics, it is a time for us to come together and meet this challenge together. While I am confident that, in the end, we will come through this a stronger, more confident and resilient country, I will not lie to you - it’s not going to be easy.
While we all empathise with public sector workers and want to deliver better pay and conditions, we cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. As Prime Minister, it is my job to make difficult decisions and the economic situation we face means that we will all have to do our part.
That is why I am today announcing that I will be foregoing my salary for the remainder of my premiership. Many of my Cabinet colleagues who are, like me, already wealthy, have agreed to do the same.
We will shortly bring a bill to Parliament which sets a cap on MP pay based on a link to the average salaries of other public sector workers. We are today asking all civil servants who are paid more than the Prime Minister to accept a voluntary reduction in their salary.
While I do not believe it is the right time to burden hard-working families with further tax rises, in the spirit of solidarity which we will need over the next few years, I have today launched the Healthcare Solidarity Fund. All sums donated to this fund will be used to award end-of-year bonuses to low paid nurses, care workers and midwives.
My wife and I have donated £10 million to the Solidarity Fund and I have today written to the executives of every Fortune 500 company in Britain inviting them to make a contribution. The Fund is also available for donations from other businesses and all members of the public who wish to take part. We will be publishing daily figures of all donations to ensure that those who contribute get the recognition their generosity deserves.
My priorities for the next two years are to bring inflation under control, stabilise interest rates, reduce our national debt and get the economy growing. Increasing Government spending on the public sector at this time would only exacerbate the problem. In view of that, given the economic challenges this country faces, there will be no public sector pay increases until the country is back on the right track.
I know this is a bitter pill to swallow for many families who are already struggling but it is the right decision for the country. The reason that politicians have failed to be straight with you for decades is that they are terrified of losing their seats. But we cannot continue to act irresponsibly because we fear for our political careers. We cannot continue to burden our children and grandchildren with debts we refuse to pay off. We cannot continue fuelling inflation by printing money to fund unaffordable spending commitments.
I believe in the good sense of the British people. I believe we are a people who can confront hard truths and tackle them head on. So, today, I make this pledge to you:
My Government will do everything in our power to address the economic crisis our country faces. It will be difficult but we will not waver and we will not be distracted from our task. And, if by the time of the next election you believe we have not lived up to that promise, I will encourage you to vote for a party that you feel better represents your vision for the future of our great country.
P.S. All public sector jobs with the words “diversity”, “inclusion”, “equity” and “representation” and “lived experience” in the title are hereby scrapped with immediate effect. Under my Government, all public sector employment, promotion and termination will be based on merit and merit alone.”
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